As the football world continues to digest the excitement and drama of National Signing Day, college football fans will spend the next several days analyzing the Rivals.com rankings and counting the "stars" of their school's recently committed recruits.
Many of these signees will go on to excel at the college level and try their luck in the pros. While several will likely find success in the NFL, the AFL has also seen its share of top-ranked recruits.
Back in 2002, current Orlando Predators defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock came in at #72 on Rivals.com's list of the "Top 100". The second-year pro went on to have an All-American career at Ohio State before joining the Preds in 2012.
While Rivals ranked current NFL MVP and then-Oklahoma signee Adrian Peterson the top recruit on the list in 2004, a year earlier, current Utah Blaze quarterback, defending AFL MVP and (also) then-Oklahoma signee Tommy Grady found himself at #70 on the list. San Jose SaberCats linebacker Justin Warren (Texas A&M) was #34.
Three current AFL players were ranked in the Top 100 in 2004. Orlando Predators utility man Xavier Lee ranked tenth in the nation as Florida State's prized recruit at quarterback, while the New Orleans VooDoo's linebacker James Bryant (Miami) and defensive tackle Marlon Favorite (LSU) came in at #59 and #72, respectively.
Iowa Barnstormers offensive lineman Dace Richardson
(#54, Iowa) and Tampa Bay Storm defensive back Bryan Evans (#75, Georgia) both made the list in 2005. That year, Rivals also released Junior College rankings. Longtime Philadelphia Soul receiver Larry Brackins
(Pearl River Community College) headlined the list at #1, while Orlando Predators wideout Prechae Rodriguez
(Auburn) came in at #25.
Before he was setting receiving records with the Spokane Shock, receiver Adron Tennell was the 42nd-ranked prospect in the nation and a top recruit of the Oklahoma Sooners in 2006. That same year, Rivals ranked future Arizona Rattlers standout Maurice Purify (Nebraska) #17 on the list of JUCO recruits.
The Rattlers had a pair of players from the team's current roster crack the 2007 Top 100, including All-Arena offensive lineman Michael Huey (#39, Texas) and rookie quarterback Willy Korn (#98, Clemson). San Antonio Talons offensive lineman Tray Allen ranked 16th in the nation coming into the Texas Longhorns program that year, while new teammate Ray Hisatake (Hawaii) came in at #88 on the JUCO list. Also on the list: San Jose SaberCats offensive lineman Ako Poti (#50, Penn State) and Spokane Shock wide receiver Steven Black (#81, Memphis).
The 2008 JUCO rankings featured three more future AFL players in Arizona Rattlers offensive lineman Michael Diaz (#52, Arizona), Tampa Bay Storm Mac linebacker LeRoy Burgess (#69, North Carolina State), and New Orleans VooDoo defensive back Dustin Bell (#72, Kansas State). The following year, three more made the list, as Tampa Bay Storm offensive lineman Jamar Bass (#62, South Florida), New Orleans VooDoo offensive lineman Zhamal Thomas (#75, Arkansas) and Spokane Shock receiver Brandon Kinnie (#77, Nebraska) all cracked the JUCO Top 100. Utah Blaze offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick (#13, Nebraska), Iowa Barnstormers defensive lineman Matangi Tonga (#22, Houston) and Tampa Bay Storm receiver and kick returner Michael Lindsey (#23, Northwest Mississippi Community College) were also top junior college recruits listed in 2010.
So while college football fans can continue to salivate over the signatures on National Letters of Intent and the rankings doled out by Rivals, fans of the Arena game may want to take notice too. If history is any indication, several future stars of the AFL game may well be on the list.